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Indiana Bat Survey Delays Little River Drainage District Maintenance

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Wikimedia Commons

Maintenance along a southern Missouri drainage ditch has been delayed for several months due to a U.S. Fish & Wildlife population study of an endangered bat species. A recently completed survey concluded there were no Indiana bats in the area, but the Army Corps of Engineers can not begin work yet. This is because of an issued ‘no-cut’ period that ends November 1st.

Army Corps biologist Leonard Pitcher says that regulation can not be set aside under normal conditions. “If there are unique situations where life and property are in direct hazard of being damaged we can go into emergency consultation and possibly get those things done more quickly,” Pitcher said.

Two-hundred-fifty miles of main drainage ditch belonging to the Army Corps of Engineers have yet to be dredged. That poses a serious flood threat, according to Little River Drainage District engineer Dustin Boatwright.

“You got the water leaving areas in the district, traveling down those channels that Little River maintains, and then getting to the point of those Corps maintained channels that are not adequate. So, the water can’t outlet the way it should, which absolutely can cause flooding,” Boatwright said. 

Even though Fish & Wildlife didn’t find any bats, the Corps must wait until November 1st before starting work. Pitcher said the bats roost in trees and bear their pups in the summer time. “Then in the fall the pups are mature and the bats start heading back towards their wintering grounds and they leave the trees. And then in the winter time they’re not in the trees and we’re allowed to cut down the trees at that time,” Pitcher said.

As of now the area is not considered under immediate danger, but Boatwright is concerned. Southeast Missouri, he said, used to be swampland, so there are consequences of delayed maintenance. 

“Without scheduled maintenance, this system tries to revert back to that swamp. So, of course if you don’t maintain it you’re going to have flooding. That’s what we’re trying to warn the Corps of, and let them know how important it is for them to do their part to make sure our landowners are safe and have productive ground,” Boatwright said.

The Little River Drainage District greatly depends on the work done by the Army Corps who plan to start working as soon as the no-cut period ends.

Joshua Peters was a student reporter writing for KRCU in 2013.
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